The San Francisco 49ers will face off against the Chicago Bears on the road to open their season this Sunday. Second-year quarterbacks Trey Lance and Justin Fields will also battle head to head for the first time in their careers. It’s a lopsided matchup on paper, but that’s how you could fall into a trap game. Here are three keys to victory in Chicago for the Niners.
49ers Defensive Domination
The Niners on paper have a defense that is likely capable of ranking in the top five this season. The defense dominated in their two playoff victories last season and added a number one cornerback this off-season by signing Charvarius Ward from Kansas City. The corners will be important since the 49ers will be without starting free safety, Jimmie Ward, who will be out until at least Week Five with a hamstring injury.
Luckily for the 49ers, Chicago doesn’t have an elite wide receiving core and the offensive line looks to be subpar which should bode well for Bosa and the rest of the front seven. However, one area of concern could be the improvisation and scrambling of Justin Fields. When the 49ers and Bears faced off last season, the Niners won 33-22 in Chicago. Fields in that game didn’t have a great performance throwing the ball, but he rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown on ten carries.
Fields could still make it more difficult than people think for the 49ers to get their defense off the field if he turns broken plays into first downs like their last meeting. The Niners need to contain Fields in the pocket as much as they can and dare him to beat their secondary as a passer.
The 49ers’ Offensive Line
This off-season, the 49ers lost Pro Bowl left guard Laken Tomlinson to free agency and Pro Bowl center Alex Mack to retirement. Losing those two along with starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey coming off a season-ending injury, the offensive line has been the most glaring regression on paper. This Sunday in Chicago may have inclement weather which means physicality should be a huge factor in this game where the Niners may need to heavily run the ball.
Starting tight end George Kittle is also questionable for the game with a groin injury he suffered this past week. Without one of their best playmakers, it’s also another blow to the trenches for the Niners this Sunday, especially regarding run blocking.
The newcomers to the 49ers starting offensive line need to step up this season, but especially in this first game. If it does rain during the game, it should be more physical and may change how they decide to use Trey Lance. Protecting the 22-year-old quarterback should be the highest priority, and the Niners will likely have an extra emphasis on running the ball. The front lines of the offense will be key to starting the season off strong.
Getting Trey Lance In Rhythm
Trey Lance has only started two games for the 49ers and this Sunday is his first start in a season opener. Sometimes Week One can be odd because it’s the first look everyone has at every team in the NFL after an off-season of signings, trades and the draft. Especially for Lance who is practically a rookie, it’s important to start the season off strong.
Getting Lance into a rhythm early in the game should be essential. Running some play-action or bootlegs to misdirect the defense while scheming wideouts like Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk open, should be able to spread out the Bears’ defense. Having success in the passing game early could take pressure off the offensive line to create running lanes for the 49ers ball carriers in the backfield as well.
If the defense dominates and Lance is in rhythm, this Sunday should be full of fun for the 49er faithful.